Animal Research Hazards & ACUC Guidance

Working with animals in a research setting can present many different hazards. Common hazards by species and setting are included below. For additional helpful guidance related to animal research hazards, view the zoonotic diseases in pregnancy, animal bite or scratch, and animal allergens pages.

Hazards by Species

Working with animals in a research setting can present many different hazards. Below are the different species that may be worked with and the different risks they could have including physical risks, development of allergies, and zoonotic disease risks.

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Mice

Physical Risks: Bites

Allergies: May develop from exposure to mouse urine and fur

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Rats

Physical Risks: Bites (tend to bite when startled or when in pain); Scratches (from teeth or long toe nails)

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Hamsters

Physical Risks: Bites (tend to bite when startled from sleep or when in pain)

Allergies:May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Gerbils

Physical Risks: Bites (not typically biters)

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Guinea Pigs

Physical Risks: Typically very docile, but may bite

Allergies:  May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Rabbits

Physical Risks: Bites; Scratches (especially from hind feet)

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Cats

Physical Risks: Bites (can be deep wounds from canine teeth); Scratches

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Dogs

Physical Risks: Bites (can be deep wounds from canine teeth); Scratches; Falls (from wet floors related to kennel cleaning and from jumping dogs); Back Injuries (from lifting dogs); Hearing Loss (prolonged exposure to loud barking)

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Swine

Physical Risks: Falls (tend to root at handlers working within their pens causing falls); Bites (uncommon, but will attempt to chew on pants and shoes); Back injuries (from lifting swine); Hearing Loss (Prolonged exposure to typical loud squeals)

Allergies: May develop after prolonged, repeated contact.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific disease

Sheep and Goats

Physical Risks: Bites; Falls/knee injuries/back injuring and crush injuries (running into handler and/or knocking them over, jumping (can jump with enough force to break a handler’s leg or high enough to strike the face), Butting as a defensive behavior from the animal); Goats are more difficult to handle than sheep.

Allergies: Allergic reactions to sheep are rare. Proteins on the hair and skin flakes of goats can cause allergic reactions Contact dermatitis can also occur when handling the wool of sheep.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific disease

Cattle

Physical Risks: Bites; Crush injuries (Squeezed between the animal and a solid structure, limbs stepped on); Falls (pushed over by animal, trips, slips in wet areas from cleaning)

Allergies: Allergies can be to cattle hair, dander, urine, meat and milk. Since allergies stem from the proteins that are secreted in salvia, urine, skin glands and each breed of cattle has unique proteins. Individuals may develop allergies to only certain breeds of cattle.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific disease

Non-Human Primates

Physical Risks: Bites (can be deep wounds from canine teeth); Scratches; Back injuries from lifting heavier species. Back injury, falls, and crushing injuries can occur when working with primate cages, transport boxes, and other husbandry equipment

Allergies: No known allergen risk

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Birds

Physical Risks: Bites, scratches

Allergies: Allergen can be found in dander, salvia, urine or feces of birds. Dander from birds when they preen or ruffle their feathers can be sent into the air where it can become into contact with skin or inhaled into the lungs. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a lung condition with symptoms that mimic pneumonia. Symptoms develop after repeated exposure to a specific antigen found in birds. Signs of an allergic reaction after exposure to birds are rhinitis and asthma symptoms (wheezing and dry cough.) Signs and symptoms of both allergic reactions and hypersensitivity pneumonitis usually occur several hours after exposure.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Amphibians

Physical Risks: Bites, Many species are capable of secreting toxic compounds from dermal glands.

Allergies: Uncommon

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Fish

Physical Risks: Slips and falls from wet/slippery environment

Allergies: Oral allergy syndrome has been linked to people that have occupational contact with fish

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Ferrets

Physical Risks: Bites, Scratches

Allergies: Allergies may occur from exposure to the animal and it’s waste

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Horses

Physical Risks: Bites, kicks, Back strain from handling or restraining horses due to their size and strength

Allergies: Hair and dander are sources for allergies. Proteins secreted by the oil glands in the horses’ skin as well as the proteins in animal saliva, can cause allergic reactions.

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Reptiles

Physical Risks: Bites, Scratches

Allergies: Rare

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Salmonella spp.
  • Live food items may carry disease (black worms and bloodworms carry Mycobacterium)
  • Water for aquatic reptiles may cause infections

Chinchillas

Physical Risks:  Scratches

Allergies: Hay and dust (from dust bathes) may cause allergies

Zoonotic Risks: Click on the links to learn more about specific diseases

Hazards by Setting (ACUC Protocol)

Review common hazards by work setting to address hazards that may be present when working with animals. Below are some ‘hazards by settings’ to assist the completion of the ACUC Animal Protocol. The ACUC Animal Protocol can be accessed via ARROW after you sign in using your Wisc Net ID.

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Biological Hazards

  • Zoonotic agents
  • Human or animal pathogens
  • Biological toxins
  • Human cells
  • Recombinant materials
  • Prions

Chemical Hazards

  • Carcinogens
  • Potential reproductive hazards
  • Irritants
  • Flammables
  • Highly reactive
  • Corrosives

Physical Hazards

  • UV light
  • Magnetic fields
  • Noise
  • Electric shock
  • Temperature,

Radiation and/or radioactive materials

  • Please note: radioactive materials administered to animals require a permitForm 99A
  • Administration of radionuclides
  • Does NOT include animals that are only being irradiated via the Irradiation Core Services or X-Rays.

Wildlife Hazards

  • Addresses hazards of fieldwork with wildlife.

Other Hazards

  • Zoonotic agents (ex. Herpes B in non-human primates)
  • BSL1 agents that do not require a biosafety protocol
  • Farm work safety precautions
  • Other hazards not previously addressed

Additional Helpful Tips (ACUC Protocol)

Below are some helpful tips sorted by settings and areas of research to assist in the completion of the ACUC Protocol via ARROW.

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Farm Setting

For research in farm settings, please select “Other Hazards” and answer the Farm Safety Precautions by selecting the appropriate PPE required.

Non-Human Primate Research

For Non-Human Primate research, please select “Other Hazards” and answer Zoonotic Agents question for Herpes B Virus.

Biological Hazards

For Biological Hazards, please refer to your biosafety protocols for guidance.

Teaching Protocols

For Teaching protocols, the Occupational Health and Safety section may not be available. If it is not available, please address safety concerns (chemical hazards, etc) and add safety information to the “Experimental Narrative” section in ARROW.

Wildlife Protocols

Examples of PPE needed: nitrile/latex gloves, leather gloves (for species with bite risks), long-sleeved shirt, long pants, other – staff required to tuck pants into socks to prevent tick access to the skin

Examples of Field Safety Equipment: first aid kit, insect repellent, hand sanitizer. Other – may list chemical hazards here example: Chemical hazard: Testosterone. Risk: potential teratogen/carcinogen. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid exposure. Use nitrile/latex gloves when injecting.

Examples of Decontamination:

  • Fish: Bags/nets will be washed and bleached between animal captures. Different dip nets will be used at each site to avoid spread of disease or contamination. Dip nets will be disinfected by immersion in dilute bleach solution followed by inactivation by sodium thiosulfate and rinsed in clean water.
  • Birds: Bags/nets will be washed and bleached between animal captures. Traps will be soaked in isopropyl alcohol for 24 hrs or more after contact with birds showing obvious signs of disease
  • Mammals: traps disinfected with bleach. Bags/nets will be washed and bleached between animal captures. Live traps cleaned with soap and water, air dried. Traps are cleaned after each trapping session with Lysol and rinsed with water.

Examples of Chemical Administration: Chemical hazard: Testosterone. Risk: potential teratogen/carcinogen. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid exposure. Use nitrile/latex gloves when injecting.